Virginia Responsible Gaming Committee to Craft Resources as Industry Rapidly Expands

Posted on: June 29, 2023, 12:40h. 

Last updated on: June 28, 2023, 12:43h.

The newly formed Virginia Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Advisory Committee will begin meeting next month with the goal of developing resources to help people who can’t control their gambling.

Virginia responsible gaming lottery casino sports betting
A Virginia Lottery retailer display screen advertises lottery jackpots. A state agency recently formed through legislation will soon begin developing responsible gaming programs to assist state residents who lose control of their betting activities. (Image: AP)

Virginia legalized commercial casino gambling in 2020 in five cities, including Richmond, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville, and Bristol. Casinos, whether they be permanent or temporary gaming facilities, have since opened in Bristol, Portsmouth, and Danville.

The 2020 casino law additionally brought sports betting into the regulated environment, with oddsmakers allowed to take bets both in-person and online.

Virginia lawmakers previously expanded gaming in 2018 by authorizing historical horse racing (HHR). The pari-mutuel wagering machines can be found at the Colonial Downs Racetrack in New Kent and at six off-track betting parlors.

Though the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling runs a toll-free gambling hotline (1-888-532-3500) to assist gamblers who have lost control of their betting, the state’s 2020 casino law required the formation of a dedicated state agency to cultivate a comprehensive program.

The statute specifically states that “a comprehensive program for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling in the Commonwealth” be established through the creation of the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund. The account is funded with gaming taxes from casino gambling and sports betting.

Agency Readies Work

The Virginia General Assembly earlier this year forwarded Senate Bill 836 to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) desk, which he signed. The statute formally created the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Advisory Committee. The act becomes law on July 1.

SB 836 directs the committee to collaborate with mental health and problem gambling experts to develop preventive safeguards and resources for inflicted persons. The agency is to additionally encourage collaboration between treatment providers and operators of legal gaming.

Anne Rogers has been appointed the chair of the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Advisory Committee. Rogers is the problem gambling prevention coordinator at the Virginia Office of Behavioral Health Wellness.

Other committee members include Dr. Carolyn Hawley, who is the executive director of the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling. The agency is a nonprofit that’s supported by several gaming companies invested in the commonwealth, including Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings, Barstool Sports, and Colonial Downs.

The Virginia Council on Problem Gambling works to increase education about the potential harms of excessive gambling. The organization maintains a neutral stance on gambling.

Additional committee members include Virginia Lottery Executive Director Kelly Gee, Virginia Racing Commission Executive Secretary David Lermond, Rivers Casino Portsmouth Director of Compliance Colleen Carraccio, and Julie Hynes, senior manager of responsible gaming for DraftKings.

Problem Gambling Data

The National Council on Problem Gambling says about 1% of the US adult population is estimated to meet the criteria to be considered to have a severe gambling problem. The DC-based nonprofit believes another four to six million people have a mild or moderate gambling disorder.

With gaming expansion continuing at a rapid pace in Virginia and across the US, responsible gaming officials are concerned about possible rate increases. As sports betting and iGaming continue to proliferate, NCPG Executive Director Keith Whyte said earlier this year that “youth gambling has emerged as a significant and growing public health issue.”